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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Campaign '13: Dinelli Tries To "Energize ABQ" And His Campaign With Econ Plan; But Was The Timing Right? Plus: Skeptics Question State Tourism Numbers, And: ABQ's "Hurricane" 

Pete Dinelli
Pete Dinelli is trying to get the debate going over the city's economic future as his mayoral campaign continues to tread water and as Mayor Berry protects his lead by going incognito.

Democrat Dinelli unveiled an economic development plan this week, but it played in some media more like an airport expansion project rather than a jobs program. In fact, in the newspaper's preview of the plan the word "jobs" did not appear even once.

According to a recent report, ABQ ranks 101 out of 102 metro areas in the USA for  private sector job growth for the past five years.

With much of the the public apparently accepting the jobs dilemma as "the new normal," Dinelli is going to have to avoid having his plan interpreted as simply "making the airport bigger." The $300 million airport expansion he advocates to attract business, while novel, will seem perplexing to many. More important, how does it relate to average Democrats--especially the ones Dinelli must persuade to get out and vote and who normally don't?

In his "Energize Albuquerque" plan, Dinelli also calls for the economic development director to report directly to the mayor and he also pledges to work for the establishment of a dental school at UNM to join the medial and law schools there. Both are ideas that we've blogged about in recent years.

(Dinelli's full plan is here.)

Dinelli decried the jobs crisis here Tuesday, but in a rather emotionless, bloodless way that in this first round lets Mayor Berry off the hook. Still, Berry's campaign did not hesitate to attack in response, even if Dinelli only gave Berry a puncture wound:

"While Mayor Berry has provided steady and responsible leadership that has Albuquerque moving in the right direction, even through a national recession and deep federal budget cuts, Pete Dinelli and his tax-and-spend ways would threaten Albuquerque's future," Berry's campaign said.

Moving in the right direction, Mayor? Albuquerque is barely moving.

But it isn't easy going against an incumbent. Dinelli already has a "likability" issue and sharply attacking the popular mayor now can backfire. But he has no choice. He is the challenger.

To have any hope of shaking up the race, he must indict Berry's record without mercy and put forth a bold plan of his own that ignores Berry's base in the corridors of the ABQ Chamber of Commerce and fully embraces the plight of working people.

Mushy centrism has given the Dems Governor Martinez, Mayor Berry, a conservative coalition in the state Senate and a state House leadership that blinks when confronted. Meanwhile, "liberals" like Obama, US Rep. Lujan Grisham and Senators Heinrich and Udall win ABQ in landslides.

What should that tell the Dinelli campaign?

LOST OPPORTUNITY?

Harry Pavlides
Veteran Democratic political analyst Harry Pavlides says Dinelli had a golden opportunity Tuesday to drop a bomb on this campaign and shake it to its core, but he did not take it:

Dinelli should have switched gears and delayed his economic development announcement and come out strongly against the proposed anti-abortion City Charter amendment that has made so much news lately. 

He could have dominated the media and put Mayor Berry on the spot by forcefully condemning the amendment and making a direct appeal to the thousands of Democratic women who are awaiting leadership on the question. It could have galvanized his entire campaign by having a group of women at his side and pledging to fight this battle. You need to take advantage of the news cycle--and right now city news is all about the abortion debate. The economic plan would have been best left for another time. 

The Democrats still do not see or feel the new reality of ABQ politics. They are operating on the premise of the past--that this is a city that somehow tilts conservative. It only does if turnout stays in the cellar. 

Harry, you're on this one like honey on a sopapilla. (And he is with us for the duration of Campaign '13.

BEING PETE DINELLI

Dinelli has only about $350,000 in public financing to spend. That may have inhibited him from putting up early, positive TV this month to soften his image. Doing so could have eased the way into taking on Berry. No outside PAC money surfaced either to get the job done for Dinelli. Now Mayor Berry and his political consultant Jay McCleskey will soon come with ads to further darken the Dinelli persona (Some PAC radio spots for Dinelli are expected soon).

The bottom lines for Dinelli: Working class Duke City residents voted in droves to increase the ABQ minimum wage in the high turnout presidential voting year of 2012. If Dinelli is going to compete with Berry he is going to have to "energize" those same voters in this city election. He is going to have to make it clear--crystal clear--that he is on their side and casting his lot with theirs.

TOURISM NUMBERS

Several readers say the legislature and other policy makers should not take at face value the brighter tourism numbers offered up by Governor Martinez this week. They say the travel consulting firm that conducted the survey--Longwoods International--has come under fire for its tourism calculations. Here's some of that from Michigan:

A new study claiming that the Pure Michigan advertising campaign funded by taxpayers returns a sizable investment for the state is dubious for several reasons. The projections are based on an online survey from Longwoods International, a travel consulting firm that found that every dollar spent by the state returns $4.90 in tax revenue. This is actually up from their previous 2010 study that found that each dollar returns $2.23. There are multiple problems with this type of analysis. The consulting firm, which has an incentive to find a high return, has apparently never seen a tourism campaign it does not like.

The Longwoods report says NM set a record for tourism visits in 2012. However, the data said all the growth was for day trips. Overnight visits in which tourists spend much more cash were flat.

The Legislature this year approved an increase in the state advertising budget to spark more tourism here.

HURRICANE WHO?

A reader writes of the big storm that lashed ABQ Friday night, delivering winds near 90 mph and which prompted ABQ Mayor Berry to say the city had just endured a "category one" hurricane:

So we had category one,  hurricane force winds. Why was the storm not named? Certainly we have enough "blowhard's" in NM to find a name for the Friday storm? Welcome to ABQ the home of the desert hurricane?

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2013. Not for reproduction without permission of the author
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